Trauma is something that most of us will experience in our lifetime. As a result, it is important that we know how to get the proper help when it’s needed most. This can feel really overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start or what to look for. In this blog, we will break down what trauma is, what it does to our bodies, and how trauma-informed care can help us heal.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes a traumatic event as “a shocking, scary, or dangerous experience that can affect someone emotionally and physically.” This can include events such as:
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) further explains, “Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities, and it is especially common in the lives of people with mental and substance use disorders.”
Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes and affects everyone differently. What is experienced as traumatic for one person may not be for another. Trauma is all about how the experience is interpreted in each individual’s body.
Since trauma uniquely affects each person, it also impacts each body differently. Some people might experience psychological effects such as nightmares or anxiety. Others may notice physical effects such as headaches or a racing heart. The reason for these vast differences can be found in how trauma affects the brain.
In Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, J. Douglas Bremner, MD, explains that when the brain is responding to highly stressful experiences, the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are activated. These parts of the brain are the ones that strive to keep the body safe and trigger the fight-or-flight response. As soon as danger is sensed, the brain immediately begins sending signals to the rest of the body. Right away, preparations to either fight, freeze, or run away begin. Once the event is over, the brain is supposed to send signals back to the body that it is safe to return to its normal state.
These systems come in handy when you’re in a life-threatening situation. However, for someone who has experienced trauma, sometimes the nervous system gets stuck in fight-or-flight mode and isn’t able to realize that the traumatic event has ended. As a result, the individual might experience extreme psychological and physical symptoms if the trauma remains unresolved. This is an example of why trauma-informed care is so important.
SAMHSA explains, “Trauma-informed care acknowledges the need to understand a patient’s life experiences to deliver effective care and has the potential to improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, health outcomes, and provider and staff wellness.”
Receiving trauma-informed care after you’ve experienced a traumatic event is necessary, just like following up with a cardiologist after a heart attack is necessary. Seeing a licensed clinician that is trained in the appropriate area is vital to your healing.
Trauma-informed care can look a variety of ways, depending on the patient’s needs and the clinician’s expertise. However, a licensed, trauma-informed clinician will understand the multi-faceted intricacies that are influenced by trauma. A trauma-informed clinician will be able to give you the tools you need to heal in the healthiest way possible. Their approach might include evidence-based strategies, and innovative treatment techniques, like the ones Sage Recovery offers.
Another important aspect of trauma-informed care is whole-person health. The National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) explains, “Whole person health involves looking at the whole person—not just separate organs or body systems—and considering multiple factors that promote either health or disease.”
Trauma-informed care and whole-person health work in tandem together, as they both acknowledge all aspects of the patient’s life that brought them where they are. This is especially key in diagnosing mental health disorders or substance use disorder (SUD), as the two usually influence each other.
When two or more diagnoses influence each other, they are referred to as comorbidities or co-occurring disorders. The NIMH explains that it is common for people with SUD to also be diagnosed with the following:
For example, someone with SUD may be using substances to numb feelings from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder due to unresolved childhood trauma. If the patient is solely treated for the SUD and the trauma and anxiety remain untouched, the SUD likely won’t ever be resolved. However, if clinicians can help the patient understand their pain and numbing tendencies and give tools on how to deal with it healthily, the patient will have a much higher chance of fully recovering.
Even though trauma may be inevitable, the good news is that our bodies can heal from it. Healing from trauma will look different for every person, which is why it is so vital to see a licensed trauma-informed clinician. A trauma-informed clinician will be able to give you the individualized care you deserve as you work together to heal healthily. They will also be able to offer support as you work through difficult memories, feelings, and emotions.
Some common techniques a trauma-informed clinician might use could include psychotherapies, such as:
Other techniques could include more innovative approaches such as:
It is essential to remember that, just as trauma affects everyone differently, everyone will respond to treatment differently. What works for one person may not work for someone else, so a clinician’s treatment plans and techniques will vary accordingly.
We understand that healing from trauma can be a difficult process, but having the right tools can make it a little easier. That’s why, at Sage Recovery, we ensure every single staff member is trained in trauma-informed care. Whether you come into contact with one of our masters-level clinicians or a chef, you can rest assured that you will be treated with dignity and respect as you heal. In addition, we pride ourselves on offering various treatment techniques so that you can get the individualized care you deserve. We believe there are multiple pathways to healing, and we are here to support you as you discover what works best for you. To learn more, call us at (512) 306-1394.